Wednesday, November 25, 2009

After Everything, To Stand

Christians are warned in the 6th chapter of Ephesians, that the Christian life is a Spiritual Battlefield. They are told to "Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes". They are even reminded that this battle will be long and hard fought, "so that after you have done everything, you may be able to stand" (see Ephesians 6:12-18).

The Bible describes the nature of this warfare, not as physical, but as a warfare of ideas. 2 Cor 10:5 describes it: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ".


The first decade of the 21st Century has seen a great deal of change in Western Culture. The "cold war" of cultures between the culture of death, and the culture of life has broken forth on two fronts.
1) September 11th: Islamo-Fascism (The active, terror side of the Muslim world) opened up a full scale war with the west. While there is a great deal of debate regarding the effectiveness of the West's response, we are in an active war today --a war for the existence of our culture of life and freedom.
2) January 20th 2009: The inauguration of a new administration in the US overturned a political culture of life, and was quickly followed by an overturning of presidential directives against certain forms of abortion, embryo-destructive research, and other life issues.
3) Against this background, is a third cultural movement, the disintegration of the self. "integration" is unity and integrity. "Disintegration", therefore refers to disunity and confusion. This is seen in many places, but comes to root in two key things:
A) The "blur of gender identity" (see Ruth La Ferla, "It's All a Blur to Them," The New York Times, Thursday, November 19, 2009). This issue comes through strikingly in the controversy over the AMA music awards and the performance of American Idol runner up Adam Lambert. The arrangement is that sexuality is not an integrated part of who a person is, but rather a fashion or entertainment issue.
B) The "mechanical worldview". This worldview treats the human being as a mechanical organism consisting only of the body. The body, is ours, it is argued, and we can do with it whatever we want. The Christian worldview, once default in western society has always treated the human person as both body and soul, and thus linked to and belonging to God.
Well, how are these linked? As the West has lost its sense of "self", and come to see individual humans as "entertainments" or as "fashion statements", we have subtly dismissed their inherent worth as those made in the image of God. In other words, if I look on another person as a "disgusting fashion statement", why should I not expose them to my contempt, or worse, harm them?

The West, has therefore lost its will to stand for life, as life has become mere"entertainment". When therefore, mechanical "medical ethics" call for the destruction of the weak and vulnerable, for the convenience of the strong, who will stop them? When the Islamo-fascists care nothing for whether they, or we, live or die, as long as they succeed in their long term goal, who will have the will to halt them?


In response to this Chuck Colson, has led the way in signing a joint declaration "the Manhattan Declaration", arguing that all "Christians" Catholic Orthodox, or Evangelical must immediately stand together, or fall alone, as the one source that can see cultural renewal, in the cause of life and the dignity of the whole human person. While an evangelical and catholic, could certainly appeal to their culture or government today on these issues, the Declaration contains many affirmations of agreement on the gospel solution, "as Christians we" must work together to reinvigorate "our Christian heritage" in the culture of life. It argues that Christians of every stripe are writing together and consider that, "It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season”". A great statement of truth.

Conservative evangelicals such as Al Mohler, feel this is a critical statement to sign today, saying: "I want my name on that list. I surrendered no conviction or confessional integrity to sign that statement" (see "Why I signed").

Others wonder if that is the answer? A personal friend of Mohler, John MacArthur, another conservative evangelical, argues that while he would "obviously agree" with the positions of the statement on social issues, it lacks the one true solution to them. The gospel alone is the final answer, the ultimate means of changing peoples thoughts, feelings and worldview, it creates a culture of life, yet, "This is precisely where the document fails most egregiously", MacArthur argues (see "Why I did not sign").

It should be obvious to the careful student that the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical tradition do not share uniformity on the gospel itself. Rome argues that human sacramental works, done many times throughout the life of faith are both necessary, and the only means of salvation (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church art. 1129, 1252, 1262, 1263). Evangelicals argue that works cannot be a part of the process, but justification before God is recieved by faith in the atoning work of Christ completed once for all in the past. (see Calvin's Instituted Book 3, sections 16-17).

The question must be, "what effect then can a joint effort, of the Catholic and Evangelicals to reform the culture through 'our duty to proclaim the Gospel', if we proclaim a different gospel?". It seems to be a wasted effort, with the troops firing at two different objectives. On the other hand, should a lack of agreement there, keep us from joining hands with anyone who wants to do what is right?

Allistair Begg, who also will not sign, writes, "
Ultimately, the Gospel is the issue and it needs to govern issues of lesser or secondary importance, including those mentioned in this document. It is my prayer that the truth of God’s Word will bring the Gospel to bear on these important issues that are affecting our culture today." (see "Questions").

Which approach is right at this time? The question is urgent, for with tripartite alliance of Islamo-fascism, Secular Mechanicalism, and the dissolution of the Human Self and dignity striking all at once with arguments and pretensions against the true knowledge of God, we cannot "sit this one out", as one believer reminded another many years ago, in another urgent circumstance: "
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance ... will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to ...[your current]... position for such a time as this?"" (Esther 4:14).


For More Info on significant non-signatories see Tim Challies: "The Manhattan Declaration".